Interior Secretary Bernhardt Continues Stacking Interior with Conflicted, Corrupt Political Appointees

Leadership Team at Interior is Composed of Dangerous and Highly Conflicted Anti-Public Lands Extremists

Recent news revealed that anti-public lands zealot and acting Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) William Pendley is intent on getting a White House nomination to be the permanent BLM Director. This push by Pendley comes in the wake of two other top Interior political appointees facing contentious Senate confirmation hearings where they were confronted on their conflicts of interest, lack of qualifications, and anti-public lands views. 

In a statement, Deputy Director of Western Values Project Jayson O’Neill said, “After the Trump administration put former mega-lobbyist David Bernhardt in charge of the Interior Department, we knew America’s public lands, parks, water, and wildlife would be under attack by the special interests this administration is beholden to. To top it off, Trump and Secretary Bernhardt continue to fill the swamp and stack the deck against America’s outdoor heritage by promoting, nominating, and hiring anti-public lands extremists, allies to special interests, and lobbyist pals to key positions at Interior.”

Recent Interior Staffing Decisions Include: 

Hired William Perry Pendley – Acting BLM Director 

William Pendley was brought into Interior’s fold in late July and granted the authority of Acting BLM Director shortly after his hire by Sec. Bernhardt. His appointment was roundly criticized because of his 30-year record of advocating for the abolishment of federal public lands, work on behalf of special interests, supporting efforts to repeal the Antiquities Act, and rallying against wildlife protections. He has previously called immigrants a ‘cancer’ and boasts an extensive recusal list of over 50 entities. Strikingly, Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) recently signaled support for Pendley’s push to become the BLM Director, despite Montanans’ widespread rejection of his radical ideas and policies. 

Nominated Kate MacGregor – Deputy Interior Secretary

Sec. Bernhardt most recently promoted Kate MacGregor, currently serving as Interior’s Deputy Chief of Staff, to be Interior’s Deputy Secretary despite her deep ties to oil and gas industry and her history as a Washington insider. During her committee hearing, when questioned by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) about her involvement or witnessing any political meddling of scientific research or meddling, MacGregor simply said, ‘I have not.’ Her response to the Senator was misleading at best. Emails obtained by and reported on by the Pacific Standard show that MacGregor was ‘keenly interested’ in a scientific study on mountaintop removal coal mining’s health effects. MacGregor went as far as emailing the then the acting director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation, ordering the acting director to update her of when the study had been canceled. MacGregor has also been critical of the Land and Water Conservation Fund — a widely popular and necessary public lands and parks funding source. MacGregor’s Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee vote is scheduled for today

Renominated Aurelia Skipwith – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director

Sec. Bernhardt also renominated Aurelia Skipwith to be the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. Skipwith’s resume is littered with ties to special interests and her previous time at Interior has been spent working against sage-grouse habitat protections as well as ensuring favorable decisions to Monsanto — her former employer. Further, Skipwith’s only political campaign donation was made to the Trump campaign only two days her nomination, raising questions about her ethical conduct. Skipwith also failed to disclose lobbying ties between her former employer, Gage International LLC, and their work on behalf of the powerful Westlands Water District — a former client of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. 

Bernhardt Stacked Interior with Former Lobbyists and Special Interest Allies

Beyond Interior’s leadership composition, many other Interior political appointees have previously worked for or represented special interests and industry. Western Values Project has chronicled the breakdown of Trump’s Interior under Sec. Bernhardt at Department of Influence, a website documenting the revolving door between special interest lobbyists and political appointees at the Department of the Interior.

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